Toolkit Tutorial: Searching the Daughters of the American Revolution Databases
By David A. Fryxell Premium
There are advantages to having an ancestor who helped America win its independence, beyond just being able to stand a little taller on the Fourth of July. You can qualify for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) or its male counterpart, the Sons of the American Revolution. Even if you’re not a joiner, you can tap the genealogy information the DAR has been collecting since 1890—a process that’s suddenly become much easier with the launch of three interconnected databases on the DAR’s website. You can read about the new DAR Genealogical Research System (GRS) and find links to each database at, or jump right to the GRS.
The goal of the GRS is to make it easier for you to order a “record copy” of an application submitted for DAR membership. These applications contain the documentation necessary to prove a genealogical connection, generation by generation, back to a “patriot ancestor” who fought in the Revolutionary War or otherwise served the cause of independence. From these copies, you can learn not only about your patriot ancestor but also about other ancestors you and the DAR member have in common.
So how do you find out if you have a patriot ancestor in the first place? Previously, you had to submit a query using the DAR’s Patriot Lookup Serviceand wait for an e-mail response. Now the GRS’ Ancestor Database has replaced the Patriot Lookup, allowing you to search for an ancestor you think qualifies. Follow these six steps to get started.
1. To begin, click the Ancestor tab. Fill in as much as you know about the ancestor you think qualifies as a DAR patriot; you must fill in at least one of the starred fields (Last Name, First Name or Ancestor Number—each patriot in the database has a unique ID). You can use * or ? as a wildcard: Dick*nson, for example, will find Dickinson as well as Dickenson. There’s also a tab for Advanced Search, where you can add details about the person’s patriotic service, but most searches don’t require such winnowing. Don’t miss, however, the tab for Child Search, which you can use if you know only the offspring of a potential patriot; you might be able to extend your family tree a generation right here.
2. Once you’ve filled out the form and clicked Search, you’ll get a list of hits. If your search produced no results, the database may suggest alternate spellings (“MOBERLEY >> MOBLEY,” for example); just click on these to start a search. Note that the DAR’s preferred spellings aren’t necessarily correct—in fact, they’re frequently at odds with the historical record—but are based in part on the Library of Congress’ classification system. The list of hits often will include alerts about problems found with older DAR applications; you can skip those warnings now, but note that they’ll require research later to resolve.
3. Select the little patriot icon to the right of a name to bring up that person’s full record, including a list of applications based on that ancestor. Look for those with an S icon indicating that the application includes supporting documentation.
4. Click on the “Nat’l Num” column to perform a search in the second DAR database, Members, for that applicant. Your results will be a list of all patriot ancestors for this member. You also can search the DAR member database directly via the Member tab, but the only option here is to search by Member Number.
5. Pick the family tree icon on an Ancestor or Member page to search the third database, Descendants, for any descendants of this patriot. You can directly search the 7.1 million names—a total that’s added to daily—using the Descendants tab.
6. Select the family tree icon on a Descendants page to go back to the lineage submitted by a DAR member. If the applicant used a “short form”—piggybacking her application on a previously accepted lineage—only a generation or two may be listed. For full applications, however, the lineages can be extensive. Hover over the magnifying-glass icon, and you can search for similar listings with one click.
To order a record copy and see accompanying documentation, you’ll need a member’s complete info, including the Member Number. Or you can simply request the latest long-form application for any patriot ancestor who appears in the database.
For more research clues, try the GRC tab to search an every-name index of the Genealogical Research Committee books in the DAR Library; about 20 percent have been indexed to date, more than 20 million names. Or select the Library Catalog tab to search the entire catalog; entries here are cross-linked to the GRC database.
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